The UK’s resource policy has been driven by legislation on municipal waste and landfill rather than resource efficiency, which has led to a “somewhat piecemeal and short-lived policy focus”, according to the UK manufacturers’ organisation, EEF.
In a report EEF criticised the UK’s policy focus on “legislation on municipal waste, in particular targets to shift biodegradable waste away from landfills, landfill restrictions of particular waste streams as well as measures to offset rising landfill taxes” instead of longer-term resource efficiency policies.
EEF added work in the UK to encourage innovation in resource security had been “under-resourced and piecemeal”.
The report, Materials for Manufacturing: Safeguarding Supply, makes a number of recommendations to improve the UK’s resource security, including establishing a dedicated resources policy office within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
It also suggests regularly reviewing material supply risks, improving waste data and providing stronger incentives for resource efficiency.
According to EEF, around 40% of manufacturers’ costs are material costs, which are rising along with an increasing demand for commodities. This, alongside volatile commodity prices and an over-reliance on China for strategic supplies, is threatening the UK’s resource security, the report argues.
But, while other manufacturing countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan and South Korea are putting strategies in place to shield their economies from resource risks, the UK is “vulnerable” and “in danger of being left behind”.
The report states: “The UK’s innovation response, in comparison, has been under-resourced and piecemeal. Government support for innovation already does much to support innovative manufacturers but would benefit from being more strategic, with a stable and clearer prioritisation framework, with the aim of driving long-term economic growth.”
As a result, the EEF recommends the UK government works collaboratively with national and international stakeholders to set innovation priorities on resource security, efficiency and recovery.
To lead on resource security policy, EEF urges government to set up an Office of Resource Management (ORM) within BIS.
This, EEF explains, would be a dedicated team of experts designed to “drive a coherent vision and policy response to resource security” which should lead on updating the Resource Security Action Plan (RSAP) to “inform policy making and direction across government”.
EEF’s recommendation follows the government’s announcement of plans to give a “championing role” for waste and the bio-economy to the BIS minister for business and energy in response to a House of Lords select committee report.
However, EEF adds Defra still has a “key role” to play in preventing waste crime, minimising environmental risks from the waste industry and addressing barriers to waste prevention through the Waste Prevention Programme.
To help the Office of Resource Management’s work, EEF also wants stronger data on UK waste and resources as well as increased monitoring of supply risks. As such, the organisation supports carrying out another review similar to the 2006 “Stern review” on the economics of climate change.
Other measures supported by EEF include: incentivising resource efficient plant and machinery through tax breaks; conducting a resource efficiency red tape review; and developing a nationwide code for local authorities on waste collection to help manufacturers design for recyclability.
Commenting on the report, senior policy advisor at EEF, Susanne Baker, said: “As we approach the end of an economic era we cannot afford to be left under-prepared and over-exposed. Manufacturers have sounded the alarm about the growing risks to material supply and others are now taking up the clarion call. But while competitor nations are already taking evasive action, our government is in danger of burying its head in the sand.”
Shadow Environment minister, Barry Gardiner MP, also backed the recommendations in the EEF report and asserted a future Labour government would carry out a review of resource security risks.
“The manufacturers association is right to label the government’s approach to resource security directionless and ineffective. America, Germany, South Korea all have strategies to shield their economies from resource risk, but despite our increasing exposure to these risks the Tory-led government has no strategy.”
“It’s clear we need a vision for a more resource efficient and secure economy which creates jobs and growth,” Gardiner added.